A real ‘Jingle Bells’ one-horse open sleigh
  • Real horse saddles as motorcycle seats
  • A 10-cent horse named Champion
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    Auction Finds

    Don’t ride the (real) white horse

    You couldn’t miss the big white horse. Someone had leaned it against a wooden beam holding up the roof of an open shelter on the back lot of the auction house. It was looking over its shoulder as if in response to someone who had called out to it.

    It obviously was not a real live horse – no one would sell such an animal at this type of auction. It was made of some type of material that looked to be stone but didn’t look as heavy. It was one of those whimsical items that show up at auction from time to time (like the oversized black panther at another auction last summer).

    Unusual items like this always make me wonder why the original owner had acquired it and what auction-goer would buy it. And where in the heck do you keep it? In a man cave? This one was in pretty good shape – except for some nicks, bumps and scrapes – so the previous owner apparently sheltered it, although the auction house had left it outside in the cold.

    whitehorse2

    An oversized white horse ready for auction.

    I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it because there were so many other things to preview at the auction. Later, though, the white horse suddenly evoked the lyrics of a song that I couldn’t shake from my head:

    “Don’t ride the white horse.”

    The bass guttural voice singing those lyrics would give me no peace. It would not go away. So I had to find out more about the song – which never seemed that important to me when it was popular.

    “White Horse” was released in 1983 on the B-side of a 12-inch single by two Danish musician/singers named Jim Stahl (keyboards) and John Guldberg (guitar). It was the tune – not the A-side “Sunshine Reggae” – that took off in dance clubs and on radios across this country. I kept hearing “White Horse” with its simple but loaded lyrics on black radio stations when I lived in Tampa, FL.

    whitehorse3

    This is the front cover of the 7-inch version of “White Horse” by Laid Back. Photo from Wikipedia.

    Prince loved the song, too, telling Billboard magazine that it was one of his favorites, according to one account. He sampled it for his tune “Erotic City,” and so did other singers, including 2Live Crew and Monifah.

    The song by these two Danish white guys had some soul; maybe that was why so many black folks embraced it. “When our record company told us not to come to the U.S. because people thought we were black,” Stahl said in an interview for the 2005 book “Flashback to Happiness,” “John and I saw this as the biggest acknowledgment a musician can ever get and we obligingly stayed away!”

    Stahl and Guldberg came together as a team in the 1970s when both were members of the Starwood Band in Copenhagen and realized they were good together as a musical duo. Starwood didn’t work out – at one concert, they were the warm-up act and some members of the audience walked out, Stahl recalled.

    By that time, new technology was revolutionizing music, he said in the book interview, and they took advantage of it, creating new sounds and a new way of “making music.” They called their electronic band Laid Back, and recorded their first album of the same name in 1981. The song “Maybe I’m Crazy” from the album became a big hit. The album “Keep Smiling” introduced “Sunshine Reggae” and “White Horse.”

    whitehorse1

    A white horse waiting its turn at auction.

    They recorded “White Horse” using synthesizers, drums and a vocoder on an 8-track tape machine and later on a 24-track, and “added a deep bass line, with John’s famous line ‘If you wanna ride, don’t ride the white horse,'” Stahl said. Here’s a video of the song.

    If you wanna ride
    Don’t ride the white horse
    If you wanna ride
    Don’t ride the white horse
    White horse
    Don’t ride the white horse
    White horse
    Don’t ride the white horse.

    The two never expected the song to be so popular. “Sunshine Reggae” was the A-side tune, and a winner in Denmark and other countries. But in the United States, we all loved “White Horse,” which was also released by Warner Brothers as a single with Prince’s 1984 “When Doves Cry” on the other side, further cementing the song’s popularity.

    In 1984, the song was #26 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, and it also made the top five on the R&B singles chart. In the book interview, Stahl recalled a little Danish girl who wrote to them in 1983 “thanking us for writing about her white pony!”

    But we adults knew that the song was never about a four-legged animal like the Lone Ranger’s white stallion Silver. It was an anti-drug-use song, and several sites said that white horse referred to either heroin or cocaine.

    “White Horse” was among Laid Back’s biggest hits across the world. Stahl and Guldberg went on to record more songs that were popular elsewhere but nothing to match that one, especially in this country.

     

     

     

     

     

     

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